Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bus Zen


When K and I were backpacking in India we took these incredibly long bus trips.

On some days these endless, bumpy journeys were intolerable, but on others we found what we came to call “bus Zen.”

I remember one day in particular when we rode from Jodhpur to Pushkar (or was it Jaisalmer…)

Though the ride was more than twelve hours long, K and I spent the entire trip staring out the windows at the landscape of Rajasthan.


Camels draped in beautiful fabric, women in elaborate jewelry and men in colorful turbans brightened the desert landscape at every turn.

We were so content in our watching that we hardly spoke to each other that day. We just took it all in, silently, contentedly, happily.

Days when we achieved bus Zen were so much better than our weary, irritable travel days and somewhere along the way we figured out that the secret to finding peace with the ride ahead wasn’t random, but rather, it was a choice.

In retrospect, I’d say that achieving bus Zen was about eighty percent dependent upon our attitude.

On days when we woke up choosing to enjoy the jostling and the dust, we did.

Both K and I feel like we’ve been losing patience with the children much too often and we finally talked about it.

“Why are we in such a hurry?” we wondered.

“Why do we rush them along so much?”

K and I are both incredibly anal task oriented, the type of people who live to cross things off of our “to do” lists.

In our mad rush to finish, we have lost our ability to enjoy the way.

“Come ON!"

"Hurry UP!"

"Let’s GO!”


[Yuck.]

K and I admitted that we have both been feeling flat and sort of … I don’t know… vaguely disinterested lately.

Semi-detached.

With one exception -- we don't feel / haven't felt disconnected from each other.

So we’ve got that going for us.

[Which is nice.]


Otherwise, with regard to our spiritual life, physical fitness, personal development, and professional development we’ve been all…

"W.H.A.T.E.V.E.R."


We’ve had bad attitudes.

Worse than that, we’ve been taking it out on The Mayor & The Rooster.

[Yuck.]

We made a pact with each other to try to slow down.

What does it matter if it takes forty minutes to choose a book or get ready for a walk?

We agreed that we would both try to be more patient and, in particular, stop re-acting to the toddler testing and tantrums.

We agreed that when The Mayor (or The Rooster) GO OFF (as they do) we would try to enforce all our regular consequences, but without “losing our cool.”

[Oh, how we have been losing our cool.]

There was something really powerful and cathartic in recognizing the way things have been going lately, acknowledging it, and talking though it together.

Miraculously, for the past few days, because we have chosen to, we’ve been more patient.

We let The Mayor and Rooster help us do all kinds of things even if that meant that the task at hand took twice or four times as long.

And they?

Were good as gold.

Why has it been so hard for me to understand this simple thing?

[-Sigh-]

I promise I'm going to achieve Zen motherhood. I will, I will!

[Even if I have to ride the short bus to parenting class.]


71 comments:

blue milk said...

Great post and I related to sooooo much of it.. but remember zen motherhood can't be held on to, when you become aware that you've reached it, it vanishes. Damn you zen motherhood, damn you for mocking us.

Jennifer said...

When my dear friends gave me a ridiculously early baby shower (I'll write more on that someday on my little blog), they handed out cards on which people were to write advice to me for parenting. One of the cards simply read "BREATHE".

Great post. Good luck maintaining the zen!

Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy said...

The best part is you and K are still connected and like minded on this.

Awareness in how you're feeling is half the battle, you'll do fine =)

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I can relate to SOOOO much of this post. I've been really working on being much more patient and tolerant with my girls and you know what? Their attitudes are so much better.

I have a really cool story my brother e-mailed me from Thailand about mindfulness and aging. I need to send it to you (and I should blog about it.)

If you catch that short bus, can I join you? ;)

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

p.s. OK I'm hogging the comments but this post really hit home to me.

This is cheesie, but so true. My oldest daughter is in kindergarten and on every piece (damn it's a lot) of paper they send home from school it says "Kindergarten is a journey, not a race."

Amen to that! This mama needs to slow down for sure.

Shannon said...

Yay for Zen!

Sayre said...

I, too, am anal/task oriented. I want to get things done... I guess so I can get MORE things done. It's not always a good thing. WHen my son was having his problems, I wonder how much of it was me trying to get him to adhere to MY internal schedule.

I wish my husband and I had been more closely allied then. As it turned out, I became the bad guy.

Not fun.

WILLIAM said...

Most people do the "Hurry Up and wait".With Kids, I find it is more "Wait and then huury up."

liv said...

oh, but what is see is the stopping, the looking at one another and KNOWING that things could be different. i love you both for that.

furiousBall said...

you know, it seems that bus zen would hit when one's butt goes numb, which is a common trait amongst all forms of zen, numb ass.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Great post! I think January is the universal month for semi- detatchedness(is that even a word??), but it sounds like you've discovered the antidote. Here's to everyone finding their "bus zen"! And for the record I think "bus zen" should be the new catch phrase for '08.

ewe are here said...

I can aboslutley relate to this post... when I choose to let things just roll off of me and not just push push push to keep everything moving along at MY pace, everyone is so much happier.

Zen, indeed. Save for those moments I forget...ok, daily moments. ;-)

WA said...

It's amazing what one little deep breath can do.
(Although, I wouldn't try it on a bus.)

jakelliesmom said...

Zen parenting is a noble goal. I find I do better too when I plan and expect less of them (and sometimes myself).

I found notes in a journal from at least a year ago, where I wrote: To be a good parent I must (and then I imagine I was going to write a list, but instead there were only two words): be calm.

Don Mills Diva said...

I love this post. My hubby and I are the same way - anal and I know we need to slow down. Also, we practiced a lot of bus zen in our travels through the third world as well (also the non-prescription valium we got in Nairobi helped)

Maddy said...

All too true, our own attitude is pivotal...ommmmmm!
Cheers

Mahala said...

Parenting is such an evolving learning experience and the role changes constantly.

nikki said...

I am totally riding the short bus with you to parenting class. In fact I drive the short bus!

NotAMeanGirl said...

Sistah Girl, I can SO relate. I posted something very similar last night. I get so caught up in trying to get him to do what I feel like he needs to do that I forget to just... spend... time... with... him! He responds so much better when my head is NOT firmly tucked into my parenting ass.. heh. Bad thing is... next time PMS ATTACKS! I'll prolly have to re-learn this same lesson. Meh.

JoeInVegas said...

hmm, patience, time, slow down, OK.

LSM said...

I'm learning daily that just breathing is a key part of parenting teens as well. Great post! We often have to remind ourselves that we're supposed to be enjoying life as well as checking all those "to dos" off our lists. It's a hard thing to remember at times.

painted maypole said...

zen and the art of bus riding - you could write a book

Anonymous said...

Your story reminded me of one of my favorite times with your brother. I was rush rush rushing him one morning to get ready for daycare. "Hurry up",I repeated over and over. It was a beautiful fall day and a good breeze was rustling the leaves on the trees. I was standing by the car door as he slowly made his way down the walk from the front door. I had my mouth open to scream "Hurry Up" one last time, but the big smile and amazed look on his face made me pause - that's when I heard him call -"MOM - THE TREES ARE SINGING TO ME! It's one of my most precious memories. It remains and most of the exasperating moments have long faded away. Take time for the precious memories. They are a comfort all your life. Love, Grandma Seattle

Jan said...

I don't think you'll be on the "short bus" for long. It sounds as if you and K have a handle on correcting your course. Parenting is the most important "job" you'll have. It is a "real" job.

skiplovey said...

Oh man so true and thanks for the reminder. Why do we always have to be in such a hurry? I'm always rushing, rushing and then of course I show up early and nobody's there yet. You'd think I'd learn one of these days. It's ok to take your time.

Sister Honey Bunch said...

I feel like this was totally directed to me. Thank you for posting it.

Edge said...

Hippy communist ...

Ok, maybe not, BUT I do think that's great advice. I think for some who happen to be task oriented it may be harder to accomplish this, but for other's it just takes practice. I think I'll try it more with my daughter. She takes FOREVER to get in the car. And unless we're late to a funeral, who cares?

~Jef

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

I lesson I need to learn as well, Obi Wan.

Amanda said...

Patience begets compliance. I understand how fleeting the grasp on this is. Write yourself a note to revisit this post. And thank you, I needed it.

Above Average Joe said...

Ah, communication. The elixer for all relationship ills.

Boy could I use some of that right now.

carrie said...

Nodding my head in agreement over here.

It's nice to slow down and experience the life, the good and the bad of it, happening right there in your very own home, isn't it? I keep trying to say this to my harried husband . . .

Who will find out if he is going to be teaching in India for a MONTH today! It's been a stressful week, waiting. Maybe a little time over there will help him on his "zen" path of enlightenment when it comes to parenting too! :)

Erin said...

This post was so what I needed today. Thanks for the inspiration.

Pgoodness said...

Ah, enjoying and allowing instead of hurrying and pushing...that's an interesting concept...perhaps a little parenting zen for me as well.
i really liked this post - very honest and real (not unlike all of yours, but you know), and I always enjoy Grandma Seattle's comments!

Wendy said...

It'd be SO much easier if we could smoke pot while parenting.

Velma said...

I try to remember this every night at bedtime, when I'm so desperate to be alone that I used to rush through it, making is a misery for all of us.

flutter said...

I think you are better at it than you even imagine

Craze said...

Oh wow, I can relate to this! I think have to force ourselves to to walk the pace of our children at times. One day you can look back with the fondest memories of taking 30 minutes to walk a normal 5 minute walk. They soak in so many things that we rush past and take for granted. Stop and smell the roses!

Tracey said...

Wonderful advice for all of us moms! Oh, and can I have some of that Bus Zen? If you carry it in "Plane Zen" that would be even better. I am flying to Chicago on Friday and am scared to fly. Deathly afraid. So, if you have any Plane Zen in stock, please send it my way.

QT said...

This was a great post. We all have to pick our battles a bit more carefully.

Laura said...

great post....zen motherhood...gotta get there myself!

kittenpie said...

too true. I was noticing I was getting awfully shouty in Oct and Nov., and somehow, we are back to normal now, thank goodness. No one was enjoying it. Sometimes keeping the cool is really tough, though, so an occasional slip shouldn't be cause for too much despair, you know?

Jennifer said...

Zen Parenting is KEY. It is also a slippery bastard -- tell me how to hang onto it, once achieved. Please. Please, tell me. Plllleeeeeeeaase.

Yamagoo said...

Wow...WAKE UP CALL!

Thanks...I needed that

Hol&J said...

Great advice for all of us. I'll try to keep this in mind for the future.

Lisa said...

Great post. It helps if you and the honey still feel connected to each other.

It is SO hard to be Zen about motherhood and kids, isn't it? When you figure out how to get to that place, lemme know, K? :-)

Scientific Lutheran said...

I don't have any kids, but I have an obnoxious graduate student at work, and I've found the Zen At Work works will with her, too. If I'm nice, patient, and don't get mad, then she is nicer, a little more patient, and a little more willing to work with me, and not against me.

If only it lasted...

Redneck Mommy said...

Zen parenting...this is new to me...here I thought I just needed the kids to get out of the house and out of my hair.

I'll try this zen approach. If only to try and remain what little is left of my sanity...

anna said...

When my kids were small, I had plane zen. Something about boarding the plane and having absolutely no power to impact when we were going to get where we were going made me able to take every moment as it came. Which was handy, especially the time when Middle was waiting for the bathroom and ...oh, never mind.

JCK said...

This is a great post, and rings true for me right now. Why are we in such a hurry? And then they're 12....

Mrs. Chicken said...

Such a great post, such a good thing to remember. We're doing a bit of that lately, too. For instance, tonight Daddy is out of town and we're eating in the family room and playing it fast and loose with cleaning, etc. It feels good.

BOSSY said...

Bossy has a set of neighbors with two kids that go, go, go, GO! Sure makes Bossy see how silly it looks, and it slows Bossy down. Well - that and the two shots of tequila.

Denguy said...

Excellent. I, too, could benefit from this great wisdom.

Got the Caddyshack reference, too.

motherbumper said...

Hey this inspired me to try out some Zen parenting - even though I have the patience of a gnat. But I'll give it a try.

Avery Gray said...

This post could not have come at a better time. I was thinking about the very same thing today, angry with myself for rushing my son through life and not taking enough time to enjoy the journey with him now. Ugh.

Zen motherhood sounds pretty great to me.

Bananas said...

Thanks for the inspiration!

Mamma said...

I'm jealous of your ability to stand back and realize it.

I try, try, try to live in the moment with the kids. But somedays...

Claire B. said...

you will! you will!

because you're trying.

the mama bird diaries said...

You said it girl. I can so relate.

I, too, need to get myself some bus zen. Thanks for the inspiration.

Natalie said...

This was a wonderful and relatable post. Thank you.

a beaverhausen said...

I hear you loud and clear. Even at this late date, breathing while parenting is absolutely necessary.

domesticator said...

Jess,

This post describes me. Thanks for the reminder to slow down...it is true....why rush?

Loved the Zen bus story, too.

girl of a thousand blogs said...

I feel this tug daily... I will try to let them help today!

The Sour Kraut said...

I loved this post. I'm sure we've all felt this way many times. Now that my boys are getting a little older, I look back at the time they were your kids' ages and wish I wouldn't have been so distracted with everything else in my life. It goes by so fast, enjoy it if you can.

BTW, I had a dream about you the other night. Funny.

GRAY MATTER MATTERS said...

So what if they take 45 minutes to pick out a book? So what indeed. I'm thrilled when a given task gets delayed by my son "dilly dallying" (such a lame phrase). With any luck I don't actually have to go to the playground after all!

But all joking aside you've expressed exactly what I feel about being a parent. Ommmmmmm.

Circus Kelli said...

You're not the only one who has to ride the short bus to parenting class. The days when I'm *not* rushing the kids, they behave a lot better -- I need to remember that. I too am working on not rushing and trying to cross things off the to-do list. I need to try to enjoy the moment a bit more. I've been doing just a smidge better. I've been feeling a bit better about my parenting, too because of it.

Seattle Mamacita said...

loved this post...so lovely to see what a wonderful relationship you and K have

Elaine A. said...

Wow, it's so "adult" of you to make these realizations. I think I am going to talk to my husband about this too and see how it works out. Why are we always in such a hurry anyway?

Susan S. said...

Love this post. A great reminder that I really needed to hear today.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

A simple idea but so perfect and wonderful.

I love when I yell at my kids to hurry up for a playdate with no particular deadline. WTF! We do need to just chill out and let them go at their own pace.

I could use a little bus zen (although I'd prefer a train).

Major Bedhead said...

Zen Mama. I need to get me some of that. I have been far too impatient lately, too. Yuck indeed.